Last week, Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey made headlines with the suggestion that Activision would deal with the exodus of high-level talent from Infinity Ward by shuttering the developer. In a post-earnings conference call today, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick both updated investors on the wave of departures and recommitted the publisher to keeping Infinity Ward going.
Kotick said that since the company publisher terminated Infinity Ward cofounders Jason West and Vince Zampella in March, the studio has seen the departures of approximately 35 employees.
"We are obviously disappointed about this, and we wish we could convince some of these talented people to stay," Kotick said, but added that the company felt it had no choice but to fire West and Zampella. The executive said he personally had considered the pair to be his friends, and their actions had compromised that friendship.
As for what will happen to the studio, Activision didn't reference Hickey's report directly, but the meaning was clear. The publisher said Infinity Ward "remains an important studio," and emphasized that it will provide the resources, people, and talent needed "to maintain the highest level of content quality." The studio is currently working on the second Modern Warfare 2 downloadable content add-on, as well as an unnamed "next big project." That project has been named in numerous court papers as being Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
Infinity Ward has been the center of turmoil within Activision since the firings of West and Zampella. The pair sued the company, which sued back, alleging they had been plotting to start a new studio with chief Activision rival Electronic Arts. Within weeks, West and Zampella did just that. A number of Infinity Ward developers jumped ship to join the new studio, dubbed Respawn Entertainment, while others simply resigned. Last month, a group of 38 former and current Infinity Ward developers sued Activision for as much as $625 million, alleging the publisher had been withholding royalty and bonus payments due them.